On 26 April 2017, RedInfo.us posted a grisly picture of a badly battered man in a hospital bed with the inflammatory headline, “BREAKING: This is American Muslim who rape 13 years old girl in Ohio he was beaten by Trump supporter. Do you support this?” The story contains only one line of text, written in poor English:
This is American Muslim who rape 13 years old girl in Ohio he was beaten by Trump supporter. Do you support this?
The short story is a total fabrication, and in fact, the man in the photograph is not Muslim. He is Amir Ayad, a Coptic Christian who, according to reports, was beaten by Islamic hardliners in 2013 in the Egyptian capital city of Cairo. Ayad was featured in several news stories about the incident, a riot in which members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents clashed on 22 March 2013 near the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo.
A reporter from Mideast Christian News (MCN), an agency that covers the Copts and other Christian minority communities in the Middle East, took the photograph of Ayad as he was recovering in a hospital. The MCN report and photograph was subsequently used by Fox News for their story on the incident. (A caption that reads “MCNdirect” can be seen in the lower right corner of the photograph.)
Fox reported on 26 March 2013:
“They accompanied me to one of the mosques in the area and I discovered the mosque was being used to imprison demonstrators and torture them,” Amir Ayad, a Coptic who has been a vocal protester against the regime, told MidEast Christian News from a hospital bed.
Ayad said he was beaten for hours with sticks before being left for dead on a roadside. Amir’s brother, Ezzat Ayad, said he received an anonymous phone call at 3 a.m. Saturday, with the caller saying his brother had been found near death and had been taken to the ambulance.
Ayad recounted the experience to reporters from the Associated Press:
Bearded Brotherhood members dragged dozens of activists into the Bilal bin Ramah Mosque, where they beat them and flogged them with whips, several of those who were held told The Associated Press.
Christian activist Amir Ayad recalled how, while he was being beaten, he’d hear Brotherhood supporters coming into the mosque greeted by their comrades who told them, “Go warm up on that Christian dog inside.” Ayad — who was left with a fractured skull and broken ribs — said Brotherhood members forced him to pose for photograph, wielding a knife they pushed into his hands to use as evidence that he was thug.
Opponents, meanwhile, snatched a number of Brotherhood members and took them into the Al-Hamad Mosque. A reporter for the Brotherhood’s party newspaper, Mustafa el-Khatib, told the AP he was seized and carried by his arms and legs into the mosque and beaten.
“You sheep, we’ll show you,” his tormentors shouted, using a term many protesters use against Islamists they see as blindly following their leaders, el-Khatib told the AP. He had deep cuts in his head and bruises all over his body.
The web site RedInfo.us is based in the Veles, a small city in the Eastern European nation of Macedonia, according to the domain lookup took WhoIs. Veles serves as a curious hub for web sites that spread fake news, often with an slant favoring U.S. president Donald Trump. As BuzzFeed News reported in November 2016:
Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.
The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.
Despite the fact the story is completely fake, it was shared by numerous Facebook users, often with vengeful, misspelled comments like, “He is a pig monster America should cut off his winnie” and “No, I do not support this . They should have beheaded him, then sent him back to where he can from.”
Ironically, before it was employed by RedInfo.com, Ayad’s story and image in the hospital bed had been circulated in 2013 by numerous far-right and anti-Muslim blogs like BareNakedIslam.com and GatewayPundit.com to drum up anti-Muslim sentiment against his attackers.